Ancelotti to snub Man United match for flicks

COBHAM - If Carlo Ancelotti was feeling any anxiety at reaching the final straight of the Premier League race with Sir Alex Ferguson's breath on his neck, he was determined not to show it on Friday.

The Italian coach said he would even find the time to go the cinema before his Chelsea team take on Stoke City on Sunday.

Looking cheerful and relaxed after a practice session at Chelsea's sun-drenched training ground the Italian coach joked he intended to watch Clash of the Titans on Saturday rather than Manchester United taking on Tottenham Hotspur with the chance of leap-frogging his side.

Chelsea enjoy an advantage of only one point with three games left but Ancelotti has long experience as both player and coach of tight championship races.

"I'm not worried because I know football very well. At the end of the season it is always like this. You have to reach your target," Ancelotti said.

"Pressure is the engine of life for me but it's important to maintain control of the stress so instead of staying in front of the television watching that game it's better to go to the cinema."

His task against Stoke City on Sunday, whether United win or lose will be to calm his increasingly anxious side.

"We have a great opportunity to win and so we have to stay calm and quiet. We have to prepare well, without emotion," Ancelotti said. "Of course it's difficult but we don't want to miss the chance."

The players, who failed to consolidate their advantage last week with a lacklustre 2-1 defeat at Tottenham during which captain John Terry was sent off, are feeling the strain more than their boss.

"I think the players feel the pressure now because they are very close to winning the title," the Italian, in his first season in England, said.

"For the last three years they have not won. But that's normal - it's better to be like this than to be 10 points behind and chasing nothing.


"I'm excited at the moment," the track-suited coach said relaxing back in his chair and showing no signs of the emotion. "Because it's the most important time of the season - there's a good atmosphere."

The trees heavy with blossom surrounding the Cobham training ground herald the end of the football season, but most Chelsea players face an extension into June and even July at the World Cup.

"They are a dangerous team... well-organised ...They are a physical team," Ancelotti said of Stoke. Chelsea also face a trip to Liverpool next week and a home game against Wigan in a fortnight.

England left-back Ashley Cole is likely to get his first game for Chelsea since he suffered an ankle injury in February, Ancelotti said.

Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, chasing the Premier League's golden boot a goal adrift of United's Wayne Rooney, has been carrying a hernia but Ancelotti said this was under control.

Serbia's Branislav Ivanovic, recently recovered from an ankle problem, will replace Terry in the centre of defence against Stoke, Ancelotti said.

Chelsea will also be without defensive midfielder John Obi Mikel, whose leg injury will keep him out for a week.